Linking 300 years of Philadelphia's resistance history to present-day resistance narratives
About the Project
Inspired by acts of resistance in our current world, Chronicling Resistance,Enabling Resistance aspires to assure current stories of underrepresented voices are preserved and to invite Greater Philadelphia residents to see themselves in 300 years of local resistance narratives. The initiative is managed by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL). Support for the research and development of Chronicling Resistance, Enabling Resistance has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
Editor’s Note: How will women vote? The question has been on the minds of politicians and pundits since before the ratification of the nineteenth amendment. Women’s potential votes carried power on major questions such as citizenship, the rights of enslaved (and later, formerly-enslaved) blacks, and temperance. The country could change in women’s hands. But women …
By Mariam Williams On October 15, 2018, Tarana Burke posted the following message to Twitter: A year ago today I thought my world was falling apart. I woke up to find out that the hashtag #metoo had gone viral and I didn’t see any of the work I laid out over the previous decade …
By Mariam Williams In September, several members of the Chronicling Resistance steering committee attended the Annual Meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. There we heard a keynote address from Nina Simon, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and author of The Participatory Museum and The Art of Relevance. …
Representatives from PACSCL’s member institutions are undertaking this project alongside the project director and assistant. They bring decades of experience as librarians and archivists and are actively engaged in work that (re)considers archives and libraries as tools of resistance.
Sarah Horowitz, Steering Committee Chair, Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts and Head of Quaker & Special Collections at Haverford College
Lois Fischer Black, Curator of Special Collections, Lehigh University Linderman Library
Laura Blanchard, PACSCL
Peter Conn, Executive Director, The Philadelphia Athenaeum
Rachel D’Agostino, Curator of Printed Books, Library Company of Philadelphia
Christiana Dobrzynski, Digital Archivist, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (formerly of Bryn Mawr College)
Will Echeverria, Curator, Digital Collections, Free Library of Philadelphia
Caitlin Goodman, Curator, Rare Books Department, Free Library of Philadelphia
Tim Murray, Head of Special Collections, University of Delaware Libraries
“Thinking Partner” Consultants
PACSCL has engaged a diverse group of “thinking partner” consultants to its Chronicling Resistance, Enabling Resistance project. These consultants join with PACSCL members, the project staff, other cultural organizations, community groups and communities of activism to consider issues of resistance and memory.
Laurie Allen, University of Pennsylvania Library / Monument Lab
Bonnee Breese Benton, public school teacher
Rob Blackson, Temple Contemporary
Paul Farber, University of Pennsylvania / Monument Lab
Valerie Gay, Art Sanctuary
Ivan Henderson, African American Museum in Philadlephia
Katherine Kane, Harriet Beecher Stowe House (emerita)
Sean Kelley, Eastern State Penitentiary
Nathaniel Popkin, Hidden City / History Making Productions
Matt Rader, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
Hazami Sayed, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture
Jessica Shupik, Public school teacher
Rebecca Traister, Journalist and author
Morris Vogel, Tenement Museum
Tufuku Zuberi, University of Pennsylvania
News Release, June 18, 2018:
PACSCL receives grant to showcase histories of resistance and preserve materials reflecting 21st century issues
The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a Discovery Grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage for its project, “Chronicling Resistance, Enabling Resistance: Libraries and Archives Expose Historical Documents and Encourage Communities to Make Their Stories Heard.”
In announcing the award, Ronald Brashear, Arnold Thackray Director of the Othmer Library at the Science History Institute and PACSCL board chair, observed, “Resistance is embedded in our human DNA. Both the city of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania colony were founded as an act of resistance to England’s religious intolerance. At the same time, the colonists themselves were the subject of resistance by indigenous peoples. And you see it reflected in the development of science and medicine where new theories face resistance from established theories.” The theme of resistance runs through every major movement in more than three centuries of the area’s history, Brashear noted, with every challenge to the status quo being met with a counter-push. Milestones in Philadelphia- area resistance are as diverse and compelling as the 1688 petition for the abolition of slavery; the violent labor protests of the Molly Maguires and the children’s march of Mother Jones; a mid-20th-century protest against the proposed Tocks Island Dam; and the 2011 Occupy Philadelphia movement. But while the historical and cultural materials preserved in libraries may tell these stories, they often are either not known or not available to everyone — and many citizens may not see themselves in the narratives or recognize the relevance to their own lives.
In an effort to bring these important stories into focus for a broad public, PACSCL is enlisting a group of fifteen “thinking partner” consultants — drawn from other cultural and community organizations, activists, teachers/students, and journalists — to think about current collections, resistance narratives, and ways to build partnerships, strengthen collections, and engage new audiences. Their work will involve small group discussions on the one hand and larger, community-based “listening sessions” on the other, challenging PACSCL members to think about these issues and challenging PACSCL to build a set of outward-facing programs — such as exhibitions, performances or works of art inspired by the collections, and online resources — around the broad theme of resistance and what it means to us both historically and in the present.
“There are two important things we want to accomplish,” explained Sarah Horowitz, leader of the advisory board for the project and Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts and Head of Quaker & Special Collections at Haverford College. “We want to make sure the stories in our collections are better known and in a way that a broad cross-section of our citizens can relate to. In other words, we want to get those stories out of our reading rooms and into the community.” But just as important, Horowitz continued, are the stories that aren’t yet in PACSCL collections or that may not even have happened yet. “We need to make sure that contemporary stories of resistance are collected and preserved, either by our libraries and archives or by other institutions or community archives.”
In this process, PACSCL will seek to reach individuals and groups who are 1) records creators; 2) records keepers such as neighborhood organizations, churches, and communities of activism, in addition to libraries and archives; and 3) those who interpret and share records, such as educators, journalists, and curators. PACSCL will welcome broad participation in listening events and other gatherings. “If we are going to involve everyone, we need to get out of our buildings and into the neighborhoods,” Horowitz noted.
This project will allow PACSCL to move beyond allowing people to use its reading rooms, instead proactively bringing collections to people, and expanding our ideas of “collecting” based on feedback and community needs. Future collecting might involve helping an activist group to retain and preserve their records in a way that makes sense to them, or placing materials on “digital deposit” with libraries and archives while the community retains the originals. It anticipates a re-visioning of how history is documented and who can and should be documenting, ultimately leading to a version of the historical record which broadly reflects the people and issues of 21st-century Philadelphia.
“Content created with community input is likely to be meaningful to people in that it will speak to their experiences and interests,” commented Brashear. Having such communities participate in content-creation will provide a multiplicity of voices as part of the project. It will also take some small steps towards corrective action in a history of implicit/explicit exclusionary practices on the part of collecting institutions and collectors and provide insight into the kinds of records deemed important by collecting powers, as well as absences in the record.
Support for the research and development of “Chronicling Resistance, Enabling Resistance” is provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. PACSCL is very grateful for this support, which will help PACSCL to showcase the histories of resistance in its collection while partnering with new organizations and challenging its own notions of what should be collected.